The culture of greed 

The week before Halloween, I visited my local Wal-Mart to purchase some cheap goods manufactured by slaves in China when I was shocked to see a fully decorated Christmas tree inside the doorway and aisle after aisle of Christmas merchandise.
The day after Halloween, I went to my local CVS to get some smokes and a Coke Blak. I had to wait 10 minutes to be waited on because all of the employees were stripping the shelves of Halloween candy and replacing it with Christmas candy.
Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier every year. When I was a kid, the Sears Christmas catalogue would arrive around Thanksgiving and that would signal the start of the holiday season. These days, Christmas shopping season starts around the beginning of October.

The reason, of course, is pure greed. Christmas is the most profitable time of year and the sooner it begins, the sooner the mega-corporations who run each aspect of our lives can start raking in those profits. But it just doesn’t seem right to be thinking about Christmas in October.
Imagine if the buildup to the Fourth of July started in April. Or if Labor Day hype began in June. Since there’s little money to be made off those holidays, it doesn’t happen.

And who really does their Christmas shopping in October, anyway? It just seems like a wasted effort to grab money that won’t be spent until December, anyway.
When it comes to holiday shopping, there are two very distinct types of people. There are those people, like my oldest sister, who loves to shop and to chase a bargain. She begins her Christmas shopping on Dec. 26 of the previous year, trying to take advantage of post-holiday clearance sales.

She picks up items throughout the year as she finds them on sale and, by the beginning of December, after a quick sweep of the specials on the day after Thanksgiving, she’s done shopping. She can then spend the month of December as a loving mom should: decorating the tree, making cookies and reading Christmas stories to my niece.

That is a very solid philosophy and quite sensible.

Then there’s the second camp, of which I am a member. These people start their Christmas shopping on the day they get their last paycheck before Dec. 25. These people scramble through crowded malls on Dec. 21-24 in search of specific items, usually finishing at Walgreen’s around 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve with a Jean Nate bath set for their grandma.

That’s an equally valid worldview. Take the money you have and spend it as close to the holiday as possible. Order whatever you can on the Internet and avoid the packed stores until you have no other alternative.

In both cases, you can avoid the Christmas hype and spend the holidays with the people you love most. There’s no need to worry about Castleton traffic, 45 minute waits in line at Best Buy or surly clerks at big-box retail stores.

Thinking back upon it, I can trace the evolution of the super-enhanced Christmas hype. It started in the early 1980s, when President Reagan made unfettered greed and cost-cutting the most admirable virtue in the nation. It became OK to profiteer off the less fortunate. It was socially acceptable to wring every last penny of profit out of your companies, even if it meant mistreating your employees and customers in the bargain.

Reagan raised the stakes and we are seeing the results today. Making a profit is no longer just enough. It has to be a bigger profit than the year before. It means importing unsafe goods from barbaric countries and destroying American manufacturers because they are forced to pay a minimum wage to their workers.
In that sense, Ronnie was the Grinch who stole Christmas. He turned our economy into a free-for-all where the strong get stronger and the weak are crushed. He made it possible for corporations to merge and merge until they became one giant monolith with unprecedented power over our lives.

His Republican successors have followed upon this and now we’re at a point where we’ve mortgaged our economy to China in order to finance a war, while we depend on illegal immigrants to fill the lowest-paying jobs.

f you want to see the man who ruined Christmas, take a trip to Simi Valley, Calif. He’s buried there as an all-American hero. He created the culture of greed and profit-at-any-cost business that has ruined our once-great country.

So pardon me if I don’t get into the Christmas spirit just yet. I’ve got some other things on my mind. n

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